A prominent meteorologist and author says there is plenty of evidence that the deadly stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair could have and should have been prevented.
"There is no doubt in my mind that this was a needless tragedy," said meteorologist Mike Smith, senior vice president of AccuWeather.
As the author of a book called, "Warnings, the true story of how science tamed the weather", Smith looked into how technology, forecasting and planning have helped prevent tragedies caused by severe weather.
Smith takes exception to how state fair leaders have described the events that led to the deadly stage collapse on Saturday.
"This was a freakish act of God and I don't know how it could have been prevented," said Indiana State Fair Spokesman Andy Klotz during a news conference on Tuesday.
"The wind was not a freak. It showed up on Doppler radar very well, more than a half an hour ahead of time," Smith said. "The Doppler radar showed winds of 58 to 72 miles an hour approaching the fairgrounds, so there was nothing about the wind that was freakish, and we were able to warn people 30 minutes ahead of time from AccuWeather."
AccuWeather is a private meteorology firm that Smith works for. The State Fair is not among their clients, but the fair staff had access to Doppler radar through the National Weather Service and a meteorologist who was on hand.
On Monday, state fair spokesperson Andy Klotz told Fox 59 News that the meteorologist at the event warned concert officials more than a half hour before the stage went down.
"At 8:15 he said the weather was coming," Klotz said.
According to Klotz the meteorologist said the weather would likely cause the concert to be postponed. At that point Klotz said he admitted that the decision could have been made to evacuate.
"It could have been done there is no question," he said. "You could have done that but we were assessing everything that we had available, and we made the decision that we thought was right at the time."
Smith says decisions like that should be decided in advance through an emergency plan and action should ultimately be left up to the meteorologist.
"Let them make the call about the weather rather than officials trying to play meteorologist," Smith said. "Do it yourself meteorology is a formula for disaster."
The National Weather service also issued a severe thunderstorm warning prior to the stage collapse, yet the only announcement to the crowd offered information on where to go if the concert stopped due to weather.
Despite the announcement, fans were given the impression that the show was about to start.
"Get ready, because in just a couple minutes, we're going to try and get Sugarland on stage," said the emcee.
Klotz said concert officials decided to begin an evacuation while the emcee made the announcement, but the wind took down the stage before that could happen.
Smith says decisions like that can't wait.
"Certainly, with a severe thunderstorm warning in effect, the area should have been evacuated," Smith said. "You don't have time for second guessing in a situation like that."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times